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Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS
Phyllis Steinlauf discussing the potential impact of budget cuts to senior centers.

Seniors and local politicians spoke out at a rally in Bayside on Thursday morning against the governor’s  proposed state budget that would redirect $17 million in funding previously allocated to the city’s senior centers.

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed state budget would shift $17 million of Title XX federal funding from senior centers to “child care purposes,” according to Assemblyman Edward Braunstein, who organized the Feb. 23 rally at Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center. This loss of funding would force 65 senior centers to close.

“Everybody who uses Selfhelp Clearview Senior Center, or other senior centers in the area, know how vital senior centers are to our community,” Braunstein said. “Whether you come here to socialize, you come to get something to eat, or you come for recreational programs, these senior centers are vital parts of our communities, and we cannot afford to see 65 senior centers closed citywide.”

“We’re not saying we shouldn’t fund child care, as well,” he continued. “But in a $150 billion-plus state budget, we can find the money — $17 million — to keep 65 senior centers open and provide an increase in child care funding.”

Senior center member and volunteer Phyllis Steinlauf spoke about the role senior centers play in the lives of older adults.

“Senior centers give you a purpose to get up in the morning and have some place to go and people to talk to,” Steinlauf said. “When you’re a senior, and if you’re alone, and you have some place to go to, it gives you a better outlook on life; it keeps you going … Food, friends [and] activity is very important in your older, golden years. And we cannot lose it.”

State Senator Toby Ann Stavisky said seniors faced this same situation five years ago, but the state restored funding after seniors spoke out and contacted the governor’s office.

“It is not fair to leave seniors and employees uncertain of their senior center’s fate,” Stavisky said. “We must find an alternative way to come up with the funding that won’t deeply impact the people of New York.”

“$17 million doesn’t seem like a lot — it’s actually a drop in the bucket,” Assemblywoman Nily Rozic added. “But we know how many meals that provides; how many services that provides; how many fun activities occur right here at Selfhelp and would be impacted by these cuts.”

Braunstein encouraged concerned seniors to send letters and make phone calls to Cuomo’s office.

“I’m confident that, with enough pressure, we’ll be able to force the governor to back off this plan and continue to find funding for child care,” Braunstein said.

Representative from Community Boards 7 and 11 were in attendance, as well as representatives for Congresswoman Grace Meng, Councilman Paul Vallone and Assemblyman Ron Kim.

QNS reached out to Governor Cuomo’s office for comment and is awaiting a response.

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